Title Search and Title Insurance

A title search is a detailed examination of the historical records concerning a property. These records include deeds, court records, property and name indexes, and many other documents. The purpose of the search is to make sure the buyer is purchasing a house from the legal owner and there are no liens, overdue special assessments, or other claims or outstanding restrictive covenants filed in the record, which would adversely affect the marketability or value of title.

A title search can show a number of title defects among these are unpaid taxes, unsatisfied mortgages and judgments against the seller. But there are some hidden defects that even the most diligent title search may never reveal. For instance, the previous owner could have incorrectly stated his marital status, resulting in a possible claim by his legal spouse. Other problems include things like fraud, forgery, defective deeds, mental incompetence, confusion due to similar or identical names, and clerical errors in the records. These defects can arise after you have purchased your home and jeopardize your right to ownership.

A certificate of title — issued by a title company that did the title search — offers no protection against any hidden defects in the title which an examination of the records could not reveal. Title insurance protects against any tax liens, unpaid mortgages, or judgments missed in the research of the history of title on the property. If a claim is made against your property, title insurance will, in accordance with the terms of your policy, assure you of a legal defense and pay all court costs and related fees. Also, if the claim proves valid, you will be reimbursed for your actual loss up to the face amount of the policy.

Basically there are two different types of policies – a lender’s policy and an owner’s policy. The lender’s policy protects the lender’s interest in the property as security for the outstanding balance under the buyer’s mortgage. The owner’s policy safeguards the buyer’s investment or equity in the property up to the face amount of the policy. The cost of the policy is usually based on the loan amount.

It is required to obtain a lender’s title insurance policy only. If you also desire the protection of title insurance you should purchase a buyer’s title policy. This is a one time premium, and usually the cheapest rate might be offered by the company that did the title search. It is also advisable to inquire about the seller’s title insurance policies on the property, for it may be possible for you to obtain a policy at a lower reissue rate.